Calamity: Best classical CD store has gone bust

Calamity: Best classical CD store has gone bust


norman lebrecht

January 06, 2015

We regret to report that Bath Compact Discs, long deemed Britain’s best classical specialist, has gone into administration.

Sarah Howells, its co-owner (with Steve McAllister), told us this morning that turnover had been in decline for the past couple of years, Christmas sales had been poor and an unexpected tax bill left them with no alternative but to shut down.

Aside from being the best stocked classical shop in the country, Bath Compact Discs had the most picturesque location of any record store – close to a bridge crossing the River Avon. Where on earth do we go now to find a good CD?

bath compact discspultney b ridge


  • Dominy Clements says:

    Abergavenny Music…. not sure where else (all very sad, but a sign of the old timers).

  • Robert Garbolinski says:


  • Jonathan Morgan says:

  • Chris Walsh says:

    Harold Moore’s, in Soho.

  • Robert Garbolinski says:

    Gramex Lower Marsh Near Waterloo Station London

  • Robert Garbolinski says:


  • Halldor says:

    Presto Classical in Leamington Spa is pretty much the only one left in the Midlands since Symphony Hall, Birmingham axed its excellent shop.

    Presto is superb, but you have to fear for its future. If a specialist CD shop can’t make a go of it in Bath, it’s a poor lookout for everywhere else.

  • DLowe says:

    I’ll second Robert’s suggestion of Gramex, by Waterloo. I was there for two hours yesterday chatting to the owner, Roger, the most knowledgeable opera buff I’ve encountered. Very competitive prices, but the chat is worth more. The only shop I’ve ever been into where I’ve been offered a tea and a bun free of charge.

    • J says:

      Absolutely! Gramex are going from strength to strength, and a few months ago upgraded their premises, moving to a slightly busier part of the street.

  • Dave says:

    I’m pretty sure Gramex pay more tax than Amazon.

  • Eric Edwards says:

    Amazon a BIG reason why these special shops are going under!!!

    Same with really good quality, personable instrument shops!

    Thanks to Walmart, Amazon, Best Buy, Home Depot/Lowes, etc…….

  • Don Ciccio says:

    “Where on earth do we go now to find a good CD?”

    If we indeed are talking about Earth, and if there are more countries on this Earth than Britain, then the answer has to be Tokyo.

  • Neil Thompson Shade says:

    What a pity. While I do not live in UK, I have purchased from this store via mail order.

    I have always made it my habit never to purchase goods from Amazon and other large retailers, be it CDs, books, and other items. I always support my local merchant or small businesses that provide mail order.

    Hopefully, the pendulum will shift away from the ‘lowest price’ mindset the public has.

  • mrenterzarco says:

    Try Forsyths, Classical CD Nottingham, Blackwells in Oxford and Edinburgh, aka Heffers in Cambridge, that bloke in Harrogate, Mcallister Matheson, and those guys down that pedestrianised street in Hove, Foyles, Moores and Gramex of course, that place in Notting Hill not forgetting Record Collector in Broomhill and Henry Bohn in Liverpool, and Windows in Newcastle, the one up the stairs near the bus station in Salisbury, the shop in Abergavenny, and is that place in Perth still there?

  • Robert King says:

    If people are indeed sourcing their music elsewhere (assuming that people are still prepared to pay for their music, and not expecting musicians and record companies to provide music for free), the “this is irrelevant” argument doesn’t really explain the constant, downward spiral of sales of recorded classical music. Income from downloads is certainly not replacing income from physical sales, and if we are to believe that people who used to go to CD shops are now all instead purchasing online, the figures strongly suggest otherwise.

    Of course we can all sit at home and search the internet, but it is (it was) those wonderful exchanges with supremely well-informed (and enthusiastic) staff in record shops, sheet music shops and bookshops that led people like me to discover all sorts of music, printed and recorded, as well as wonderful books, that internet searches rarely seem to lead you to, because a computer leads you in a much more pre-programmed way.

    You are right – we don’t need footmen any more. But places like Bath Compact Discs made their own wonderful contribution to encouraging culture. So it is a sad day when they fall.

    • Neville Dalton says:

      I agree entirely. It was always a special joy to run down to Bath (from Newbury) and buy that special CD, talk to the staff and browse the shelves, then go for a quiet lunch. Bath CD’s regular brochure always tempted me beyond resistance too. I suppose Blackwell’s is a reasonable alternative – or will be once the roads are sorted out – but the London shops are certainly out. An hour’s train journey – standing up all the way – is beyond my 70 year old legs, not to mention the crowds and the dirt!

  • Ed says:

    Casa Piscitelli, Buenos Aires.

  • Mike says:

    Fortunately Brits don’t have to travel to Buenos Aires for a marvellous selection of CDs!….. Come to NOTTINGHAM. We are so lucky to have Classical CD (and Bookwise) in Goosegate – just five minutes from arguably (with Symphony Hall in Brum) the finest-sounding modern concert hall in the UK, the Royal Concert Hall. Mail order prices, and friendly and very knowledgable staff too.

  • Ruth Cooper says:

    Having worked in the CD industry for many years we were very sorry to hear about the closure of Bath Compact Discs.

    For those in the South West who like to browse, our music shop – Opus 13 – stocks classical CDs and DVDs, including new releases, and is located on St Michael’s Hill, Bristol (near the BRI).

    Ruth & Liz
    Opus 13

  • Jonathon Higgins says:

    Delighted to hear Gramex is still going strong! Not been for years as I rarely pass through London, but I have fond memories of the many hours I spent there when it was the best second hand LP shop in London!

  • Virginia says:

    ‘If a specialist CD shop can’t make a go of it in Bath, it’s a poor lookout for everywhere else’
    Business rates in the centre of Bath are very high which makes it hard for small independent shops. And it’s not such a centre for classical music lovers – many of the people who come to Festival concerts are visitors, we have no purpose-built concert hall, and for a year or so recently we had no shop dealing in musical instruments.

  • Jeffrey Wood says:

    I have spent many happy hours browsing with my partner in Bath Compact Discs, first of all in their original small shop further down Broad Street (run by American John Cervenka), then in their much larger premises, which is now a branch of Fired Earth. When they moved to a narrow little shop across the road I knew that the writing was on the wall. I was very upset and had tears welling up in my eyes as I left this unfamiliar little shop. Steve was sitting behind a tiny desk looking rather forlorn. I now buy all my discs on line from the excellent Presto Classical who’s website is one of the best I have used. When I used to visit the larger Bath CD shop I noticed they nearly always had the Presto Classical website up on their computer! I think they missed out in not developing a top notch online service like Presto. I am sure that jazz enthusiasts also lament the loss of the associated Broad Street Jazz. One of the best classical CD outlets in Central London, Music Discount Centre (which had several branches and was a favourite of mine in the 1980s) suffered a similar fate. If you can’t make it pay in London, then I don’t know where you can.